I am honored to give this lecture dedicated to the memory of Dr. Fred Soper, whose pioneering efforts against the insect vectors of malaria and yellow fever are legendary. Soper and his colleagues also played key roles in restoring the concept of eradication to respectability after the collapse of earlier campaigns to eradicate hookworm and yellow fever. When Soper was himself invited to give the first of five Fred Soper Lectures to mark his retirement as regional director of the Pan American Health Organization in 1959, he entitled his lecture Rehabilitation of the Eradication Concept in Prevention of Communicable Diseases. Ten years later, The World Health Organization (WHO)'s abandonment of the declared goal of malaria eradication marked another nadir in the acceptability of the concept of eradication, from which we are only now reemerging.
One measure of the change is that the Director-General of WHO in 1980 wrote that “Important lessons can be learned from smallpox eradication, but the idea that we should single out other diseases for worldwide eradication is not among them.”